A random effect meta-analysis was performed to estimate the worldwide pooled bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) prevalences of persistently infected (PI), viraemic (VI) and antibody-positive (AB) animals and herds. The meta-analysis covered 325 studies in 73 countries that determined the presence or absence of BVDV infections in cattle from 1961 to 2016. In total, 6.5 million animals and 310,548 herds were tested for BVDV infections in the global cattle population. The worldwide pooled PI prevalences at animal level ranged from low (≤0.8% Europe, North America, Australia), medium (>0.8% to 1.6% East Asia) to high (>1.6% West Asia). The PI and AB prevalences in Europe decreased over time, while BVDV prevalence increased in North America. The highest mean pooled PI prevalences at animal level were identified in countries that had failed to implement any BVDV control and/or eradication programmes (including vaccination). Our analysis emphasizes the need for more standardised epidemiological studies to support decision-makers implementing animal health policies for non-globally-regulated animal diseases.